Birds & birding in the Blue Mountains & Capertee Valley, Australia
The Capertee Valley: page 1

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» 1. Introduction and birds of the valley
2. Vegetation and habitats
3. Advice for visitors: facilities, accommodation, weather, etc.
4. Directions to the valley (print-friendly format)

If you're a birder in Australia, chances are you've heard of the Capertee Valley – or perhaps you've been there, but despite its well-earned renown in birding circles you're unlikely to find it marked on any road atlas or tourist map. What you might find on a map are a couple of tiny places called Glen Davis and Glen Alice, tucked into the western edge of the vast and mysterious Wollemi National Park. On the ground though, the reality is unexpectedly impressive.

As you drive up the Mudgee road north of Lithgow, there is one point where you reach the crest of a hill and suddenly a broad panorama opens up on your right, an immense canyon rimmed by golden cliffs and punctuated with the occasional mesa-like mountain. This is the legendary Capertee Valley.

A little further along the road the small township of Capertee marks the junction from where you begin the descent into what is truly one of the best birding areas in Australia. The Capertee Valley is said to be the largest enclosed valley in the southern hemisphere. It's more than 30 kilometres wide in its upper reaches, narrowing like a bottleneck to a gorge barely one kilometre wide near Glen Davis and further downstream. On the valley floor are broad river-flats flanked by rolling hills and covered with a mosaic of grassy fields and eucalyptus woodland. Beef cattle and mobs of kangaroos graze in a peaceful rural setting. Towering 600 metres above are the cliffs bordering an inaccessible rugged wilderness. All this is only three hours drive from the centre of Sydney, and less than 90 minutes from Katoomba. [Click here for detailed directions.]

  • Capertee is pronounced "kay-per-tee".
  • Note the correct spelling: there is no second r ("Capertree" is a common mistake).
  • The town of Capertee is not actually in the Capertee Valley.


The elusive Regent Honeyeater. Photo Nevil Lazarus.
The centre of the universe for Regent Honeyeaters and birders looking for them...

Most importantly, the valley is blessed with a remarkable diversity of birds, especially species that can be difficult to find in other areas. It's a stronghold for declining woodland birds, those species which have suffered most as a result of extensive clearing for agriculture throughout inland south-eastern Australia. The best known example is the Regent Honeyeater, a beautiful and endangered bird whose most important breeding area anywhere is right here in the Capertee Valley. It's now estimated there may be only several hundred Regent Honeyeaters remaining in the wild. The valley is now regarded as "the centre of the universe" for this enigmatic species.

The valley was one of the first places in NSW to be nominated as an Important Bird Area (IBA) on the Register of Birdlife International.

A birdwatcher's paradise

More than 235 bird species have been recorded in the valley, including 25 threatened species (see below). The birdlife here is generally quite different to what can be seen closer to Sydney and the coast. Being both at the eastern limit for a number of inland species, and near the western limit of some of the more typically eastern species means that the diversity is high for an area of its size. The box-ironbark woodland on the valley floor provides especially good habitat for woodland birds which are declining elsewhere as a result of habitat loss.

Common species which can be found throughout the valley include Red-rumped Parrots, Fuscous and White-plumed Honeyeaters, Brown Treecreeper, Superb Fairy-wren, Jacky Winter, Mistletoebird, Diamond Firetail, Restless Flycatcher, to name a few, and in the summer months you would also be likely to see Rufous Whistler, White-winged Triller, Rufous Songlark, Rainbow Bee-eater, Dusky Woodswallow and, in some years, large numbers of White-browed Woodswallows.
A male Red-rumped Parrot, a common species in the Capertee Valley. Photo Nevil Lazarus.

When the nectar-rich eucalypts and mistletoes are flowering, the place comes alive with Noisy Friarbirds, Little and Musk Lorikeets and a myriad of smaller honeyeaters. These are the conditions where you are most likely to encounter Regent Honeyeaters.

One reason for the valley's popularity with birders is that it's the closest point to Sydney where many of the more typically inland birds can be found relatively easily. These include birds such as Southern Whiteface, Painted Honeyeater, Red-capped Robin, White-browed Babbler, Plum-headed Finch, White-backed Swallow and Brown Songlark. If you're really lucky you could also see Budgerigar, Diamond Dove, Black-eared Cuckoo, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater or Gilbert's Whistler, which are all rare this far east and normally associated with drier inland areas.



White-browed Babblers. Drawing by Fiona Lumsden.


It can also be a great place to see birds of prey with 17 diurnal species having been recorded. Wedge-tailed Eagle, Little Eagle, Brown Falcon, Australian Hobby, Black-shouldered Kite, Nankeen Kestrel, Brown Goshawk and Collared Sparrowhawk are all reasonably common, and with a bit of luck you could see less common raptors such as the Square-tailed Kite, Black Falcon and the beautiful Spotted Harrier.

THREATENED SPECIES

Threatened birds regularly seen in the valley include:

  • Regent Honeyeater (Nationally Endangered; Critically Endangered in NSW; IUCN Red List Critically Endangered)
  • Swift Parrot (Nationally Endangered; Endangered in NSW; IUCN Red List Endangered)
  • Spotted Harrier (Vulnerable in NSW)
  • Little Eagle (Vulnerable in NSW)
  • Square-tailed Kite (Vulnerable in NSW)
  • Glossy Black-Cockatoo (Vulnerable in NSW)
  • Gang-gang Cockatoo (Vulnerable in NSW)
  • Little Lorikeet (Vulnerable in NSW)
  • Turquoise Parrot (Vulnerable in NSW)
  • Barking Owl (Vulnerable in NSW)
  • Brown Treecreeper eastern subspecies (Vulnerable in NSW)
  • Speckled Warbler (Vulnerable in NSW)
  • Painted Honeyeater (Vulnerable in NSW; IUCN Red List Near Threatened)
  • Black-chinned Honeyeater eastern subspecies (Vulnerable in NSW)
  • Scarlet Robin (Vulnerable in NSW)
  • Flame Robin (Vulnerable in NSW; IUCN Red List Near Threatened)
  • Hooded Robin south-eastern form (Vulnerable in NSW)
  • Grey-crowned Babbler eastern subspecies (Vulnerable in NSW)
  • Varied Sittella (Vulnerable in NSW)
  • Diamond Firetail (Vulnerable in NSW)
Threatened birds which have been once or occasionally recorded in the valley include:
  • Australian Painted Snipe (Endangered in NSW)
  • Powerful Owl (Vulnerable in NSW)
  • Masked Owl (Vulnerable in NSW)
  • Sooty Owl (Vulnerable in NSW)
  • Gilbert's Whistler (Vulnerable in NSW)

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Seasonal notes

Which season is best? This section will outline what you might expect to find at different times of the year. Coming soon.



Above: Rainbow Bee-eaters. Photo Nevil Lazarus.


Go to page 2: Vegetation and habitats

Top of page Capertee Valley banner: Sunset near Glen Davis, from a photo by Cathy McBey.

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© 2006 C. Probets, www.bmbirding.com.au (updated 2012)